Dusty Rhodes, One of the All Time Greats
– Article & photo by Dr. Mike Lano
Glad to see so many young and not so young in the biz posting, Tweeting and remembering Big Dust who had so many great phrases and career arcs in wrestling.
I was fortunate to have covered and photographed him in many arenas and venues since the 70′s. From the old, long gone Atlanta City Auditorium to one MidAtlantic show, several Florida shows, one Cobo show for Sheik, all his San Francisco appearances for Roy Shire (Roy lost his Sacramento tv studio tapings and after going thru Don Owen, Bob Geigel’s tv and their boys sent to SF, his last 4-5 months and last 3 Cow Palace cards utilizing Eddie Graham’s tv with localized/special SF promos. The first was a phantom tourney alleged final match up for Roy’s US Title where Dusty pinned Ole Anderson for Roy’s strap. On the next house show, Dusty teamed I believe with Mike Graham and the final show was Roy’s last card, his big Jan 1981 battle royal where Dusty, Terry Funk, Dick Slater and Pat Patterson were the last 4 guys left. Pat won over Funk with Dusty’s help and posed Dusty and Pat with Roy’s 18 man battle royal trophy (he reused it each year, no one kept it) backstage at the Cow Palace which looks unchanged even today.
Then of course Dusty in Crockett’s purchased NWA with quite a few great house show matches – Dusty against Flair, vs Nikita, teaming w/ Nikita and several 6 man NWA world title defenses with Dusty and LOD. I don’t think I ever saw 6 man tag belts at the house shows and PPV I shot ringside at, but that was just Crockett. And everything thru WCW and WWF/WWE up to now. This photo I took just weeks ago at NXT I’m told may be the last public photo of him. Had him looking up at the sky (ceiling in this case) doing his more recent Dusty “Stardust” smile. I think we’ll all recall the great promos, the feuds, etc and I’m talking about his NWA work primarily. When he won the NWA strap the first time, many were in shock. Sure he was a traveling attraction almost like Andre or Haystacks Calhoun before him. Look back at his record book and I believe in a given month he worked a MSG vs Superstar Graham, was finishing up as a face in the AWA, still doing his FL and Georgia work and then off to Japan for Inoki. Look at that Backlund title defense vs Dusty in NJPW for something special and how Dusty could relate to the quieter, respectful crowds there. Sure, maybe he got some or much of the gimmick from TBolt Patterson as the urban legend says, but he really put his spin on it. There wasn’t much need to put the NWA strap on him but one would have to ask the late Graham about “El Bond-o” there and the reasons for it. Dusty I’m sure would say he learned most everything in his brilliant mind from his sensai, Eddie Graham in Florida. He did incredible work, gates and became a legend after turning face on Pak Song and manager Playboy Gary Hart there circa 1973 after quite a career to that point with Dickie Murdoch as the Texas Outlaws in the AWA, Detroit for Sheik circa 1970 and at least one other territory. The many years of booking, teaching other up and coming kids, running his own version of Florida Championship Wrestling with Terry Funk, etc. Hell, just those feuds with the Funks, Harley and Flair. Dusty was and remains pro wrestling. I was never a Hogan guy and although Dusty wasn’t Ted Debiase in the ring, he made up for it in aura and personality for me and many others. For many of us, he was far bigger and more important on many other industry levels than the Hogans, and others.
If you want to see more great vintage footage of Dust, check out the indie masterwork I Like To Hurt People (a docu about the Sheik but it has Dust v Sheik footage, etc in it, some great Dusty promo work). Is the $9.99 showing any of the Florida footage we deserve to see (and which they have)? I hope they are because it used to be on their DVR “network” and was tremendous. Gotta call Kev Sullivan about this terrible loss for wrestling.
Article & photo by Dr. Mike Lano